Monday, 10 May 2010

April Catalogue Log

In terms of sales, discounts, and free delivery offers, April 2010 panned out much the same as April 2009. Of the 96 catalogues we received and logged last month, 29.2 percent (28 catalogues) promoted a sale or discount on the front cover compared with 30 percent in April last year. Free delivery was just marginally less popular in 2010, with 18.8 percent of covers promoting it, compared with one in five of all catalogues logged in April 2009.

Curiously, free gifts were much more popular in April 2010, and were promoted by 16.7 percent of all catalogues, compared with 12.5 percent the previous year. And it wasn’t just the usual—business-to-business—suspects touting a freebie: Organic cosmetics brand LoveLula offered free samples with every purchase; environmentally friendly goods purveyor Ethical Superstore sent customers who spent £40 or more a free bar of soap and apparel and homewares cataloguers Clifford James offered a free reading lamp to anyone placing an order of £40 or more.

One growing catalogue trend we’ve noticed in recent months is the shift to a more editorial style. We’ve written about the rise of the customer magazine—now known also as a magalogue—back in September (Getting engaged: The rise of the customer magazine), and noted that while editorial pages may not be selling product, they are still promoting the brand. We also featured two launches not so long ago: Loungewear cataloguer Hush and tech specialist Jigsaw both recently unveiled customer magazines with the aim of further engaging customers with their brand. During the Catalogue Log tracking in April, we came across at least three more catalogues that seemed to be heading in the same direction.

The first was MacSolutions from Cancom. On first impressions this could easily pass for a magazine—it is laid out with a title, issue number, and copy pointing to special features within. Once inside, the magazine theme continues—for example, on page 59, the Final Cut Studio software is given a full page and each of its functions broken down and explained in great detail. However, it’s also worth noting that nearly every one of MacSolutions’ 68 pages is a selling page. So it’s more buyer’s guide than magazine.
On the consumer side, April’s Catalogue Log recorded a mailing from catalogue group JD Williams. Together with its main catalogue we received JD Williams’ Summer 2010 Style Book. The Style Book was back for its second season, having debuted in autumn/winter 09. Its aim is to help JD Williams customers make fashion choices based on their body shape and the latest trends. For this edition it picked four “real people”, each with a different body type, to model clothes in the style that best suited them. There is also a fashion Q&A (with questions like “I have chunky upper arms, so hate the summer season when strappy tops come into fashion. I’ve tried short sleeves but always find these too tight. Can you solve this?”) and a centre-spread dedicated to building a capsule wardrobe on a budget. All the items featured are available to buy in the main summer catalogue.

Finally, the Little Book of Pests from Harrod Horticultural caught our attention. The name conjures up images of kids eating worms, but it’s actually a handy gardener’s companion helping Harrod’s customers to identify which pests have damaged their plants. The book is a veritable A-Z of nasty critters from ants to whitefly. What we like best is that Harrod Horticultural is using its knowledge of plants and their predators not only to help customers, but to advise them of the best remedies available, naturally, via the Harrod Horticultural catalogue. Although sadly I didn’t inherit my grandfather’s green thumbs, I can see this book having real staying power with customers; most likely lifting sales of pest-control products at the same time.

Through editorially led features, these cataloguers are establishing themselves as go-to sources for information, thereby increasing customer engagement. Home shopping businesses know it costs less to keep an existing customer than recruit a new one, and that lifetime value matters more than a quick win. So whereas a sale or discount may capture that bargain hunter, what April's Catalogue Log shows is that building customer loyalty is higher on the agenda.--MT

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